Day Two: Leeds Castle, Canterbury Cathedral
Posted in Travel
First watch, 7 bells (11:47 pm)

Today started off early. As you know, we had a few late nights lately, and turned in a little early last night. I woke up at 2am this morning feeling wide awake. That's jet lag for you. I could not get back to sleep no matter how long I lay there pretending I was still tired. My wife got up around 5am so I used that as an excuse to get my laptop online and finish writing yesterday's post. I was so beat I could barely type. Every couple of letters was another typo, it was terrible. And I've been typing for a few years. My brain was run down. Fortunately the seven hours of sleep I got was enough to get me through today. My M.O. when traveling has always been stay up as late as possible and never nap.

So we stayed in the Gatwick George Hotel in Crawley. It wasn't fancy, but it was a bed (albeit small), cheap, and pretty easy access from the mass transit system here in Britain, being about a 10 minute walk from Crawley train station.

Suffice to say, I was a bit surprised when we went downstairs at 6:45 am looking for breakfast and was told it didn't start until 7:30. What's this? A hotel near a major airport (Gatwick) without an early breakfast. Then I realized it was Sunday, which may explain this situation. I'm still not sure, though.

Anyway, after enjoying a fantastic breakfast (it really was good, the hotel was just a little run-down) we took our luggage outside and met with John and Kerry, our cruise buddies from last year. They were in the same hotel (we thought that may have been the case, but didn't know for sure) and had brought their daugher Jessica and Kerry's sister Molly. We waited a little while for the bus to show up, loaded our luggage, and took off for Leeds Castle.

The one or two of you that follow this blog on a regular basis may know that a few years ago (in 2005) I actually went to Leeds Castle. Yes, it's true. But this time we got to do things we didn't have time for last time, such as solving the hedge maze, and running to all the bronze rubbing stations (this was new in 2007). There was a surprise at the end of the maze, an underground grotto with cool sculptures, light effects, and a narrator reading Samuel Taylor Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, or parts of it, at least. I suppose that would have been a long narration for such a short grotto. Had we known about the grotto last time we'd have been very upset at not having the time to complete it, but it came as a pleasant surprise.

After Leeds Castle, we all boarded our tour bus and then waited for the three couples that decided the deadline didn't apply to them and made us all late for our next stop, Canterbury Cathedral. Lorien was "tactfully" loud about the need for dunce hats or some other signifier that says I ignored the rules and made everyone else late when you look at it.

We left for Canterbury, but due to some conference it was only open to the public for a short time, this time being the organ music and chanting time. That was cool, because everyone knows the acoustics in old cathedrals are the best. Anyway, I got a bunch more nice pictures, mostly of the beautiful stained glass windows. We had just a short time before we had to board the bus again and head straight for Dover, where our ship awaited us.

We boarded quickly this time, probably because the majority of people had already boarded the ship. Last year on our cruise it took forever to get through the line and we didn't even have any luggage with us due to the airline's mishandling of it.

So we made it on board, found our room, sought out some virgin piña coladas, and made it back to our room just in time for life vest drills. The drills were boring but required. My feet were hurting pretty bad. Despite being told to wait and not don our preservers, 95% of people were already putting them on. We waited until so instructed, but I guess that's just how we sail.

After the drills came dinner, a fabulous event where I was very good about not stuffing my face…until dessert. I really ate very light until they brought out that evil menu. I had two desserts: creme brulee and Carnival's famous widely-craved Warm Chocolate Melting Cake.

After dinner was the infamous John Heald's Welcome Aboard show. It was funny, but similar to the one he put on last year for the Freedom. I think it was funnier the first time we saw it.

Following the show, we stayed for a trivia game with maybe 15 other people. We didn't win. After that we found our meeting point for our excursions, picked up information on connecting to the Internet, and made our way back to our room, where I began writing this post after a satisfyingly cleansing shower.

Despite the need for more sleep and the large number of hours I've been up (it's approaching 22 hours now), I'm trying to hang on for a few more minutes because tomorrow is a day at sea and we don't have much planned except for sleeping in.

Leeds Castle

Macaw picking beak with its own feather

The Leeds Cast Hedge Maze

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